JourNey oF A soldier From PuNJAB to cANAdA
Every November’s first Sunday, Canadians of Punjabi origin, especially Sikhs, fondly remember the journey of an Indian soldier from Punjab to Ontario during World War I. For them, it is a special day as it has been observed for the past decade as the “Sikh Remembrance Day” at the grave of Pvt Buckam Singh in Ontario.
Singh, who was born in Mahilpur, District Hoshiarpur, in 1893, died of war-induced illness in Kitchener, Ontario, in 1919. His grave is regarded as the only one of a Sikh soldier in Canada from both World Wars. He was part of the Canadian infantry. He was rescued from oblivion about a decade ago when his victory medal was found by Canada-based historian Sandeep Singh Brar. Buckam’s grave was also discovered by Brar at the Mount Hope Cemetery. Buckam was married at the age of nine. He had just turned a teenager when he landed in Canada in 1907. The harsh laws for immigrants neither allowed him to vote nor bring his bride to his adopted country. The young man first worked as a miner and then as a farmhand, and then enrolled himself in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. In 1915, he travelled to England to participate in World War I as part of the Canadian forces. Buckam was among the 10-odd Sikhs who fought for Canada in the “white man’s war”. Two of his comrades, Pvt Gouger (Goojar) Singh and Pvt Lashman Singh, were killed in action in Belgium and France, respectively. Buckam’s wife Pritam Kaur is said to have stayed on at her in-laws’ place and never remarried.
Meanwhile, a 10-foot bronze statue in honour of Indian soldiers, who fought during World War I, was unveiled at Smethwick in England last Sunday. Unveiling came a week before Armistice Day today (11 November). Guru Nanak Gurdwara, Smethwick, had commissioned the “Lions of the Great War” monument, which depicts a Sikh soldier, to honour the sacrifices made by millions of South Asian personnel of all faiths.
Pvt Buckam Singh’s grave at Mount Hope Cemetery, Ontario. Photo: Facebook